The month of May is observed as “Hepatitis Awareness Month” in the United States. First established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the year 2001, the campaign is an occasion to generate widespread awareness about viral hepatitis, its risk factors and symptoms and encourage communities to undergo regular testing. According to recent reports, more than 5 million people in the US are affected by viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis refers to inflammation and damage of the liver cells. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood and fights infections. When the liver gets inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, use of certain medications and certain other medical conditions can cause hepatitis. There are three different types of hepatitis – A, B, and C – each having its own individual characteristics and transmission happens in several ways, but the symptoms tend to be similar. All three types can be acute, (lasting for 6 months or less) and infections with any of these three can be fatal. Treatment modalities may depend on the type of hepatitis and severity of infection (whether it is acute or chronic). Prevention of this condition can be done through immunizations and lifestyle precautions. For correct clinical documentation of this condition, physicians can consider outsourced medical billing services.

Reports suggest that about 300 million people worldwide are living with viral hepatitis unaware. The hepatitis virus repeatedly attacks the liver causing damage which can result in liver cancer. In fact, Hepatitis B and C can become chronic, life-long infections which can lead to liver cancer and liver transplants. According the Hepatitis B Foundation, about 2 billion people have been infected with hepatitis B worldwide. Many people are quite unaware about the fact that they have hepatitis until they experience prominent symptoms.

Sponsored by the Hepatitis Foundation International (HFI), the 2020 month-long observance aims to spread awareness, which in turn will improve screening and testing rates to lessen the burden of illness and death from these diseases. It aims to improve the quality of life of those people affected by viral hepatitis through education, patient advocacy and medical research. It encourages common people to better recognize the symptoms and understand the need or importance of timely diagnosis, treatment and prevention of this condition.

In most cases, people with hepatitis experience either mild or no symptoms. Even if, symptoms appear, they become visible only after 2 weeks to 6 months after contracting the infection (this applies to all types of hepatitis). Common symptoms of viral hepatitis include – fatigue, loss of appetite, dark urine, abdominal pain, itchy skin, flu-like symptoms, unexplained weight loss and yellow skin and eyes. Initial diagnosis of viral hepatitis may start with a detailed physical examination and medical history analysis to find out the potential risks for any infections. Blood tests or nucleic acid tests may be done to confirm the speed at which the virus is reproducing in the liver, which will show its activity levels. In addition, imaging tests like ultrasound, liver biopsy and liver function test will also be performed as part of the diagnosis. Treatment modalities may generally depend on the type and severity of infections – whether it is acute or chronic. Generally, Hepatitis A infections do not require any treatment and bed rest may be recommended. On the other hand, for chronic forms of infections like hepatitis B and C – antiviral medications will be recommended. Liver transplantation will be performed for those people who develop cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver disease as a result of chronic hepatitis C.

Hepatologists or other specialists who happen to offer treatment for viral hepatitis need to be reimbursed for their services. The screening and diagnostic tests performed as part of the treatment procedures must be correctly documented using the right medical codes. Professional medical billing outsourcing companies can ensure this. Billers and coders in such reputable companies will have a thorough knowledge about the related medical codes and payer-specific guidelines essential for correct billing and optimal reimbursement. ICD-10 codes for diagnosing viral hepatitis include –

B15 – Acute hepatitis A

  • B15.0 – Hepatitis A with hepatic coma
  • B15.9 – Hepatitis A without hepatic coma

B16 – Acute hepatitis B

  • B16.0 – Acute hepatitis B with delta-agent with hepatic coma
  • B16.1 – Acute hepatitis B with delta-agent without hepatic coma
  • B16.2 – Acute hepatitis B without delta-agent with hepatic coma
  • B16.9 – Acute hepatitis B without delta-agent and without hepatic coma

B17 – Other acute viral hepatitis

  • B17.0 – Acute delta-(super) infection of hepatitis B carrier
  • B17.1 – Acute hepatitis C
    • B17.10 – Acute hepatitis C, without hepatic coma
    • B17.11 – Acute hepatitis C, with hepatic coma
  • B17.2 – Acute hepatitis E
  • B17.8 – Other specified acute viral hepatitis
  • B17.9 – Acute viral hepatitis, unspecified

B18 – Chronic viral hepatitis

  • B18.0 – Chronic viral hepatitis B with delta-agent
  • B18.1 – Chronic viral hepatitis B without delta-agent
  • B18.2 – Chronic viral hepatitis C
  • B18.8 – Other chronic viral hepatitis
  • B18.9 – Chronic viral hepatitis, unspecified

B19 – Unspecified viral hepatitis

  • B19.0 – Unspecified viral hepatitis with hepatic coma
  • B19.1 – Unspecified viral hepatitis B
    • B19.10 – Unspecified viral hepatitis B, without hepatic coma
    • B19.11 – Unspecified viral hepatitis B, with hepatic coma
  • B19.2 – Unspecified viral hepatitis C
    • B19.20 – Unspecified viral hepatitis C, without hepatic coma
    • B19.21 – Unspecified viral hepatitis C, with hepatic coma
  • B19.9 – Unspecified viral hepatitis without hepatic coma

Over the years, the scope of the campaign has widened with the Hepatitis Foundation International (HFI) organizing many activities to spread awareness about this deadly, inflammatory condition. May 19th has been officially designated as “Hepatitis Testing Day” in the United States. This one-day testing program was started by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a special event to shed light on this hidden epidemic by raising awareness of viral hepatitis and encouraging priority populations to get tested. During this day, free viral hepatitis testing is provided for everyone in many locations around the USA.

A variety of sponsored activities and contests like poster contests, sponsored walks, educational programs, hosting hepatitis awareness month webinars, Hepatitis B presentation & screening programs, Congressional briefings about Hepatitis B, healthcare fairs (including screening, vaccination, exams and seminars) and risk assessment tests will be organized as part of the campaign. In addition, sample social media content and graphics may be promoted via different channels to share campaign messages and resources. Healthcare workers, individuals and organizations can use hash tags #HepAware2020 and #HepTestingDay to join the conversation and share information, pictures, and videos of the activities and events they plan in May.

Join the month-long Hepatitis Awareness Campaign and educate people about viral hepatitis and the preventive measures that need to be taken this May.